Metal theft not 'victimless crime'
Almost 5,000 metal thefts have been reported to gardai in the last two years, figures show.
Beer kegs, road signs, goal posts and religious relics were among the thousands of objects stolen in 2011 and 2012, with 489 new crimes recorded in the first quarter of this year.
Crimestoppers has launched a public awareness campaign to highlight that metal theft is not a victimless crime, but one that affects people, businesses and community organisations nationwide.
Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne said the crime strikes at the very heart of the community.
"The rising demand for metal on the international market has pushed the price of metal upwards and has made it a more attractive criminal enterprise," said the senior Garda.
"Significant financial loss and potentially serious harm, including death, can often result from the theft of metal from utility and rail companies.
"The removal of lead from roofs can cause significant costs to building and leave them prone to further damage. The theft of beer kegs has a significant economic impact for breweries that have to replace stolen kegs with new ones. This campaign is calling for the public to join us in helping to reduce the theft of metal."
Irish Rail said that as recently as May bank holiday weekend services were delayed when copper cabling was stolen between Ashtown and Boombridge in Dublin, damaging signals.
Gardai said thefts are dropping since it launched Operation Fiacla, which targeted burglary gangs, led to 4,226 suspects arrested and 2,327 charged by the end of February.
They called for anyone who sees anyone acting suspiciously, or is offered metal for sale, to contact Crimestoppers in confidence on 1800 25 00 25.